Hundreds of tributes celebrating the music of David Bowie, Prince and Motörhead’s Lemmy will be staged during this month’s Glastonbury festival as the Somerset event morphs into a rolling commemoration of three rock stars who passed away since Christmas.
Organisers have revealed that they are finalising “participatory aspects” for the 177,000 sellout crowd to honour Bowie, who first played at an embryonic Glastonbury in 1971 as a relatively unknown performer and went on to become one of Britain’s most feted musicians before his death in January, aged 69.
It is thought that festivalgoers will be encouraged to perform a “flash mob” set to the Bowie classic Starman, following similar events staged to the music of Dolly Parton in 2014 and Lionel Richie last year. One confirmed tribute is a set by the electronic pop four-piece Hot Chip in honour of Prince, the innovative American songwriter who came close to playing at the Somerset festival on several occasions and whose death in April was last week officially attributed to an opioid overdose.
Lemmy, whose band performed at last summer’s festival and who died in December, aged 70, will be honoured in a set involving a giant sculpture, although full details are yet to be divulged.
Last week Glastonbury announced 3,062 acts for this year’s festival, on at least 75 stages, with sources conceding that such has been the outpouring of emotion towards the three musicians that hundreds of tributes will unfold over the festival, including a generous number certain to incorporate Bowie and Prince cover versions in their sets.
“Some of the stuff we don’t even know about because there’s so much happening, particularly Bowie, because he was such a key character,” said a festival spokesman. “He wasn’t that well known when he first came down to play, and he actually stayed in the farmhouse.”
Among an increasingly long list of confirmed tributes to Bowie is the decorating of the Pyramid stage with a giant metal lightning bolt, a homage to the sleeve of his Aladdin Sane album, which will effectively double as a centrepiece for the festival, suspended above headline acts such as Coldplay, Muse and Adele.
On the Saturday night, American composer Philip Glass’s “Heroes” symphony, based on Bowie’s 1977 album, will be performed by conductor Charles Hazelwood, the British Paraorchestra and the Army of Generals, along with a “spectacular laser show” created by artist Chris Levine.
Other Bowie tributes will take the form of several high-profile DJ sets, including one by the English producer Danny Howells.
Despite Glastonbury’s enduring popularity, the festival, which began in 1970 at Worthy Farm, could move to an alternative site. Its founder, Michael Eavis, revealed last week that he is discussing a possible move to Longleat in 2019 during Glastonbury’s “fallow year”.
However, some observers believe the deaths of stars like Bowie could signal the demise of the big British summer music festival.
According to the leading rock promoter and manager Harvey Goldsmith, who has worked with most of the western world’s biggest music stars – from the Who to the Rolling Stones and Madonna – the biggest problem is a lack of new bands to succeed the old ones.
Another sobering development is a warning from counter-terrorism officials who say fans at UK music festivals could be the target of the next major terrorist attack in Britain.
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